The 31-year-old Kanwal Ahmed needs no introduction. Ahmed has often been criticized for publicly speaking about the issues that are considered ‘taboo’ in the overwhelmingly conservative society of Pakistan. The woman is popularly known for running Soul Sisters of Pakistan (SSP), a Facebook group that is notorious for adding to the divorce rate in Pakistan. Interestingly, the naysayers are often men who believe that Ahmed bewitches women into openly speaking about the ‘forbidden’ topics such as marital rape, consent, body autonomy, sex education, financial independence, divorce and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the infamous SSP seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.
Last year, after a groundbreaking success of SSP, Ahmed decided to start her own digital talk show, Conversations with Kanwal (CWK). Termed Pakistan’s “Oprah Show” by The Guardian, CWK has proven its mettle in a short span of time. However, in order to cover the production cost, the SSP’s founder raised more than 5million rupees that too in a week’s time. So, what is it that makes the show so irresistible despite being a hub for discussing unconventional social issues in Pakistan?
Mainly, it is because SSP and CWK are proving to be a safe space for women where they can recognize their worth without being surrounded by the misery of patriarchal judgments. These platforms allow women to speak their hearts out about the problems that have been shrouded in the cloak of disgrace. CWK and SSP have been enabling women to reclaim their independence in a male dominant culture and shatter the centuries old stereotypes that halt women from growing.
The 250,000 women force in SSP and 100,000 subscribers of CWK prove the need for such spaces in Pakistan. It shows that no matter how long we try to conceal these issues, at the end of the day they will rear their ugly head. Hence, in order to eradicate these problems, it is important to hold discussions and get comfortable with discussing the uncomfortable; only then we will be able to put an end to the shaming culture that is obsessed with a woman’s honor.
Hats off to Kanwal and here’s hoping that we all get to live in an inclusive, empowered and pluralistic Pakistan!